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DNA & Genealogy

Template for DNA match enquiry emails

Once your DNA results have been released, you'll be keen to start emailing your closest matches, especially if any of their surnames or places look familiar.  If you are new to genetic genealogy, follow the tips below to help you get a better response to your enquiries.

 

Many people manage multiple DNA kits using the same email address, and often have kits at different companies or websites too (eg. FTDNA, AncestryDNA, 23andMe, GEDmatch), so your message needs to be clear and include enough relevant information to help the recipient answer your enquiry as effortlessly as possible.

If your email includes very little information for them to go on, or involves a lot of research on their part just to find your match, your response rate may not be very good.

At the other extreme, you don't want to overwhelm your email contacts by including too much detail (long detailed family histories) or asking too many difficult questions right from the outset.

Establish communication channels first, and build the relationship over time.  You will all get more matches in the future, some of which will make the earlier ones easier to understand.

Keep your initial email concise and simple, but include all relevant details.  Introduce yourself and provide the basics, and you can expand upon them in later emails when appropriate.

 

Details to include:

  • Your kit/tester's name (and kit number if relevant, eg. for GEDmatch) - sounds obvious, but some people use different names (ie. maiden, nicknames, initials or aliases), so give them the right one to look for in their matches.
  • Username - eg. Ancestry, where usernames are displayed instead of match name and email address.
  • Your email address if it is different to the one you are sending the message from (so they can easily find your kits in their match reports).
  • Match's kit name (and kit number if relevant, eg. for GEDmatch) even if the email address matches the name exactly; many people manage multiple kits and may not know which kit you are referring to, even if it is their own.
  • Test type, eg. Autosomal DNA, Y-DNA, mtDNA/FMS (not always obvious in some emails).
  • Match source: Testing company or platform, eg. FTDNA, 23andMe, AncestryDNA or GEDmatch.
  • Your ancestry: Brief list of your ancestral surnames & places; or include a link to your online tree; or advise them that your tree is on FTDNA or GEDmatch; or attach a brief pedigree chart or include a screen snip of the relevant branches from your family tree software.
  • Match's ancestry:  If not already available, ask for their ancestral surnames & places, a link to their tree if hosted elsewhere, or request a basic pedigree.

 

Optional details:

  • In-Common-With (ICW) matches to their kit; and ask them to check if they have the same ICW matches;  If you are really lucky, they may already know or have confirmed some matches and be able to tell you which of their ancestral lines you match them on.  If there are too many, don't list them all, but suggest they look through them at their end for any familiar names.
  • cM details and chromosome match information (*optional, depending on relevance and level of understanding).
  • Any clues as to how you might be related, especially if it is already obvious to you.
  • Obviously the details you include in your email will depend on what information the match has already provided (or not), and what clues, if any, you can glean from their surnames and places, and how much experience you have and what you may already know.  Use your judgment.

 

Example:  Family Finder 

 

From:  [email address used in your DNA accounts]

Subject:  Family Finder Enquiry - [Surname]

Hello [Match Name / Kit Manager],

My name is [Your Name], and FTDNA's Family Finder predicts that [Match Name] is a potential [Xth cousin] match to [me, or Your Kit Name].

My family tree and surname list is on FTDNA [or at the following URL].

Do you have a family tree online that I can view, or can you email me your ancestral surnames & places of interest so I can look for clues to our common ancestors?

I look forward to hearing from you and finding our connection.

Kind regards,

[Your Name]

[State, Country]

 

Optional, if applicable:

  • Our kits match in common with [list the ICW kit names or screen snip here].  Do you have the same matches in common, or do you already know how any of them match with [Match Name]?
  • I notice that you have [Surname] in your tree and wondered if any came from the [Placename] area?
  • [Your Kit Name] comes from [Placename] for most of the last [XXX] years, and I wondered if any of [Match Name's] ancestors also came from that area?
  • Segment total cMs and longest block cMs; Chromosome details.

 

Example:  GEDmatch

 

From:  [email address used in your GEDmatch account]

Subject:  GEDmatch Enquiry - [Surname / Kit Name]

Hello [Match Name / Kit Manager],

My name is [Your Name], and GEDmatch predicts that [Match Name, Kit # M123456] is a potential match to [me, or Your Kit Name, Kit # F567890] with:

♦  MRCA (most recent common ancestor) estimated to be about [X.X] generations back

♦  longest segment of [xx] cM

♦  total shared segments of [xx] cM

♦  X-DNA segments of [xx and xx] cM (only if relevant)

My ancestral surnames include [list of surnames & places], and I have a family tree [at the following URL / on GEDmatch / or pedigree/snip attached].

Do you have a family tree online that I can view, or can you email me a list of [Match Name's] ancestral surnames & places?

I look forward to hearing from you and finding our connection.

Kind regards,

[Your Name]

[State, Country]

 

Optional, if applicable:

When using GEDmatch, you may also like to run other reports and mention any relevant results in your enquiry email - such as: 'People who match one or both of 2 kits' lists any other kits in common with both kits; Triangulation and Matching Segment reports are available to Tier 1 users, and these can identify where two kits match you and who else also matches on those segments.

 

GEDmatch Basic ReportsNote:  When using the GEDmatch One-to-many matches report, always run a One-to-one compare report on the two kits before sending an enquiry email (you can click the 'A' on the relevant One-to-many report kit line as a short-cut to the One-to-one report).  The reason is that the One-to-many report by default includes matches that are below the genealogically-relevant thresholds (ie. with SNPs below 700), so they may not really match your kit.  When you run a One-to-one compare report, the default thresholds are set at 700 SNPs (genealogically-relevant levels), so you may find that a kit from the One-to-many report does not match your kit after all.  Read the big red notice at the top of your One-to-many match list!

 

Example:  AncestryDNA

Contacting matches in your AncestryDNA list must be done through Ancestry's messaging system.  Some matches may have private trees, others may have no tree.

Request access to a private tree:

Subject:  DNA Match - Tree Access

Hello [match/admin's name/username],

AncestryDNA predicts that [match's initials/username] and [your/kit name] may be [eg. 4th-6th cousins] (optional: we share [xx] cMs over [x] segments), so would you be so kind as to share your tree with me, please?

You can already view my tree, but I would like to look at your tree too, to see if I notice any clues indicating where our ancestors may have crossed paths, even if it is not as obvious as shared surnames or birth/death places.  Eg. In your tree, I might recognise a place my ancestors visited, or the surname of a sponsor, witness, neighbour, friend, or some other clue connecting the families.

Thank you.

Regards,

[Your Name]

[State, Country]

(Optional):  PS:  I have more family kits at Family Tree DNA and at GEDmatch, where you can transfer your AncestryDNA raw data for free, to use their great comparison tools and to find even more matches.  See Why upload to GEDmatch or FTDNA? and Tips for using GEDmatch.

 

Request to add a tree:

Subject:  DNA Match

Hello [match/admin's name/username],

AncestryDNA predicts that [match's initials/username] and [your/kit name] may be [eg. 4th-6th cousins] (optional: we share [xx] cMs over [x] segments).

You can already view my tree, but it would be great if you could add your tree too.

If you link your DNA to a public tree - even if just a basic tree with names, dates & locations - you will receive more relevant enquiries, and it may also generate Shared Ancestor Hints (based on DNA and matching trees), DNA Circles (groups of matching DNA & trees) and New Ancestor Discoveries.

If you have no tree due to unknown parentage, then I will be happy to help you work out our connection if I can.

Thank you.

Regards,

[Your Name]

[State, Country]

(Optional):  PS:  I have more family kits at Family Tree DNA and at GEDmatch, where you can transfer your AncestryDNA raw data for free, to use their great comparison tools and to find even more matches.  See Why upload to GEDmatch or FTDNA? and Tips for using GEDmatch

 

Patience is a virtue..

Remember that your email enquiry recipients may be very busy people, possibly hold down full-time jobs, have families to care for, and also juggle the rest of their lives as well as their genetic genealogy email.  Many, like me, manage a large number of kits, and occasionally get inundated with emails.  Sometimes it can take me weeks to catch up, but I always respond to enquiries.  Be patient, and hopefully you'll get a response, sooner or later!

Keep a copy of each email you send and receive, so that when you finally receive a reply [XX time] into the future, you can review your conversation and know exactly what you said.

 

And always be polite and friendly :)

 

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